Different Is Not Wrong
Can’t tell you how many times people have told me I am weird or that they don’t understand what I am talking about.
Can’t tell you how many times people have told me they wished they could communicate thoughts as well as I do.
If that is not a contradiction I don’t know what is.
A thousand years ago a high school English teacher told me she wouldn’t recommend me for AP English because my writing skills weren’t strong enough to merit her recommendation.
When I tried to push her to reconsider she blew me off and said something about my not having the chops to keep up with the other students.
That conversation took place around 30 years ago so you’ll forgive me if I can’t provide more specifics or if I say it is possible her words were different than I remember.
I still think it was personal with her. After all she is the woman who gave me 11 F’s because she claimed I plagiarized part of an essay. I fought her on that one and she conceded it was possible I hadn’t read the Cliff notes and copied part of the essay but winning that fight soured her on me.
Or at least I suspect it did.
Boxing & Writing
Sixteen or seventeen years ago I started taking boxing classes at my local gym. It was a group course in which our instructor would warm us up with calisthenics or running around the room followed by time hitting a heavy bag.
Sometimes when I share this with others people look at me and ask how hard it is to hit a bag and I start to laugh because if you have to ask you have no idea how hard it can be.
There is a lot more to it than just hitting and like any other exercise it is not easy to go full bore for a minute, let alone three if you are not in shape for it.
My two favorite instructors were both professional fighters who made extra money by teaching these courses. That is another fact that seems to generate the same response from people.
“If they were teaching the class they must not have been very good fighters.”
I never understood the point of that because there is a distinct difference between your ability to impart knowledge and your skill level at using said knowledge.
Former pro baseball player Charlie Lau always comes to mind. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter but he was considered to be among the finest hitting instructors in the world.
But set that aside because the reason the comment about their skill level made me shake my head was because I was in the class for the exercise and not because I wanted to become a pro fighter.
I didn’t care if the guy had won or lost all of his fights. The running around the room and learning how to throw combinations gave me a fantastic workout that I enjoyed so much I went out and bought a heavy bag to use at home.
Inside my garage I’d start throwing jabs, upper cuts, crosses and hooks. There was both rhyme and rhythm to my workout and not just because of the music I accompanied my workout with.
That rhyme and rhythm is something that accompanies my writing too. There is an internal metronome that I hear inside my head that helps me feel the pacing of the pieces I work on.
Most of the time if I really like what I have produced I can say that I felt that rhythm the whole way through and usually if I am unhappy with the quality it means that somewhere I lost that feeling that things were moving in time to the beat.
The funny thing about writing lies in the subjectivity associated with our work. Sometimes the pieces I like best aren’t considered to be very good and the stuff I think is fair is considered to be outstanding.
It has taught me to recognize that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for why people like or dislike things and it is why sometimes I turn in work that I am uncertain about.
If it is a piece that is clean, meaning there aren’t factual or grammatical errors and it follows the flow that was assigned I’ll submit it and see what my editor has to say.
Different Is Not Wrong
A while back I was involved in a conversation in which someone was telling me about how they didn’t agree with me on a few things and didn’t understand how I came to the conclusions I did.
Midway through the conversation I asked them if it made them feel good to try and belittle me. I watched them fumble for words so I asked them if it was easier for me to say they felt better about themselves by trying to embarrass me or make me look stupid.
I watched them start to get angry and listened as they tried to accuse me of twisting their words.
“Different is not wrong. Never was and never has been. Not true for everything but it is true enough for this.”
When he didn’t respond I looked at him and said I didn’t care whether he liked me or not.
“We don’t work together and we rarely see each other but every time we do you start up with me. Don’t mistake my silence for approval. It just means I don’t think highly enough of your opinion to care about what you say.”
And then I walked away.
I wasn’t interested in engaging further and part of me was surprised I had done so this time but every now and then there is a reason to remind people that we don’t have to be threatened by different because different isn’t always wrong.